It was the sizzling, red meat debate millions of Americans expected but did not get last week between President Barack Obama and challenger Governor Mitt Romney. Vice-President Joseph Biden, Jr. and his Republican opponent Congressman Paul Ryan fired away on issues ranging from foreign policy, the economy, jobs, Medicare, and women’s reproductive rights. Despite nearing the boiling point on several occasions, ABC News’ Martha Raddatz tightly controlled the temperature of this political clash of ideas.
Biden was in the hot seat with the first question on the death of an Ambassador and three Americans after the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. He defended the Obama Administration’s decision against accusations their failure to size up the security threat cost Americans their lives. Ryan went for the jugular, noting calls for more security went unanswered.
“Our ambassador in Paris has a Marine detachment guarding him. Shouldn’t we have a Marine detachment guarding our ambassador in Benghazi, a place where we knew that there was an Al Qaeda cell with arms?” asked Congressman Ryan.
The Vice President attacked, especially on domestic issues such as taxes, job creation, and programs like Social Security and Medicare, areas where the Congressman has championed cuts in his “Ryan budget” to bring down the federal deficit with reforms, or critics would say slashing social services. Biden’s criticism was not just pointed at his rival across the debate table at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He aimed at the man at the top of the GOP ticket, as well as Republican philosophy. He used Romney’s “47 percent” comment describing voters and Obama supporters as “takers” to show a lack of compassion for struggling Americans.
“These guys haven’t been big on Medicare from the beginning,” declared the Vice President before accusing Congressman Ryan of “jeopardizing this program.”
Then he asked the audience before him, watching on TV, and in the Twitterverse: “Who do you trust on this?”
And that’s a question for voters not just on the issues mentioned, but on women’s reproductive rights. When asked about their personal views on abortion and the future of Roe vs. Wade, both men who are Catholic answered that they believe life begins at conception. But Congressman Ryan who has supported outlawing abortion – no matter what – had to walk his position back. He answered not for himself, but for the Romney-Ryan ticket that abortions should only be allowed in case of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is in danger.
Vice President Biden took this opportunity to sound alarm bells, stating that he did not believe his personal religious beliefs should be imposed on those from different religions or women.
Immigration, an emotional hot-button issue for Latino voters, did not make it into Raddatz’s suite of questions which was heavy on military, national security, and foreign policy – strengths of this seasoned Washington, DC reporter.
Both men had their moments. Social media burned down with comments and snark. Biden smirked, laughed, shook his head in disbelief at his opponent, labeling his answers “malarkey” and a “bunch of stuff.” Congressman Ryan jumped in, translating Irish expressions. The Republican also showed sharp humor, reminding the gaffe-prone Vice President that he must know “that sometimes the words don’t come out of your mouth the right way.”
Vice President Biden may have shored up his boss’s weak performance while Congressman Ryan held ground for his. Voters have two more match ups between Obama and Romney to help them decide for whom to vote in November.
Tell Us: Who “won” last night’s debate: Vice President Biden or Congressman Ryan?
Viviana Hurtado, blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, is a Washington, DC-based Latina politics columnist. She is also a spokesperson for Project Vote, a non-partisan non-profit, focused on getting out the vote. Read more of Viviana's political posts here.